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Egyptian vote marred by violence

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"This is just more evidence of the deal between the US and Mubarak to put on a democratization show, without any results,'' says Adel Wasili, a Kifaya movement member. "Reform is a fiction the government is trying to sell to the people to trick them."

Mr. Wasili was speaking as a group of about 150 male and female Kifaya demonstrators chanted anti-Mubarak slogans and waved banners on the steps of Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate building. They were watched by at least five times that many riot police.

An hour earlier, the protesters fled from another location as a group of men, who said they were supporters of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, attacked them with sticks, fists, and heavy cardboard posters of the president. Some of the men said they were government employees, while others said they worked at a chain of gas stations owned by a prominent Mubarak supporter.

Shortly after Wasili finished his interview, the same pro-Mubarak group arrived at the press syndicate, in a fleet of minibuses. Kept back from the men and women of Kifaya at first by the riot police, the pro-Mubarak gang was eventually allowed through. The heated chanting from both sides quickly evolved into a melee.

The extent of the crackdown in Egypt now poses a challenge for the US, which says it wants fast political change in the Middle East but is also a staunch ally of Mubarak's Egypt, which made peace with Israel more than 20 years ago and has received about $2 billion in US aid a year ever since.

Wednesday, Kifaya members were dragged into the crowds of the Mubarak supporters, and beaten badly about the face and kicked repeatedly when they fell to the ground. But the Mubarak supporters' fury seemed to be especially focused on women, a number of whom were spat on, dragged by their hair to the ground, and repeatedly kicked.

In one instance, Kifaya member Ragab Mahdi, a young woman, was trapped against the grate for an underground garage with a few other members of her group with riot police between her and the pro-Mubarak men.

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